Since I started walking for exercise and doing the monthly Big Walking Days, one of the things I have noticed is the way I bird. Most of my birding in the past consisted of driving to a rural area and birding there. The rural areas are usually a state public park. In Illinois it was Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Parks, or the I&M Canal Trail. In Indiana it has consisted mainly of Atterbury FWA or Johnson County Park. None of these locations are way out in the sticks but none are near a major metro area. My city birding in Indiana consists of a lot of walking along busy city streets or a public trail.
I had thought of this before but on my Big Day Walk Saturday it really dawned on me the difference in birding an urban setting versus a rural area. Since I can’t hear over the noise in the city I bird by sight and in the rural area since there is often much vegetation I mainly bird by sound. In the city I can tell I am constantly moving my head around checking the trees, bushes, sky. Everywhere. In the country I often just walk with my focus kinda straight ahead listening intently to all sounds.
This was really brought to the forefront Saturday when I picked out a strange-looking gray cloud that turned out to be a flock of Sandhill Cranes. If I had been in the country I would have heard them long before I saw them. But Saturday I was walking at a faster pace along a busy road since I was between birding areas and wanted to get from point A to point B as fast as I could. I did eventually hear the cranes Saturday but it was long after I had already saw them. I don’t think normally I would have waited for a break in the cars to listen for birds but I did after spotting the cranes. And while I was listening I heard Horned Larks in the field across the road. Would I have heard them? Probably not.
Not that my rural birding has been quiet. When I was in Illinois the best spots during migration are fairly close to a shooting range. And there was also a large sand quarry that you could hear the elevator and trains. Which could be very annoying. In Indiana Atterbury FWA is next to Camp Atterbury which is still active with plenty of shooting and artillery going off. And there is also a public shooting range right next to the FWA. So it really isn’t quiet but more so than the constant noises heard in the city – cars, equipment, trains.
So just like there are differences in how you bird different habitats there is also differences in how one birds rural and city environments. I hope I carry over the constant visual checking I picked up by birding in the city, but I’m not sure it will work in the country. The constant head swiveling probably won’t work when I am constantly listening. And I wonder how much I have “turned off” my hearing to bird in the city?
And thinking about the way I bird the different environments started me thinking of how small my change is compared to the way birds and other animals have had to change because of the changes in the to the landscape. I’ll post my thoughts on that at a not so later date..